Despite the fact that he is only 25 James Hickman seems to have been around at the top of British swimming for a very long time, and indeed won his first senior national title almost 10 years ago. He really burst onto the world scene however with appearances in both butterfly finals at the Atlanta Olympics, and followed that achievement up with the 200 fly World title in 1997 and Commonwealth title in 1998. James excels however in the short course pool, where he has held world records for both fly events and has two world titles to his credit. With the European Short course championships fast approaching, pullbuoy spoke to James to find out his aims for the rest of the season and his views on swimming
Were you very disappointed not to make the world championships team?
Of course I was disappointed not to make the world championship team, swimming is my life and not to go to the major championships is like not taking your exams at school, you don’t get any qualifications!!
Still it was my first summer in England for about 7 years and it was good to see family and do stuff normal people do. I also did the BBC commentary for the worlds which I really enjoyed.
How important was it for you to bounce back at the English Nationals?
I wanted to enjoy the English Nationals, under a lot less pressure than normal, even Steven (Parry) didn’t go, so I did a few events and really enjoyed doing the City of Leeds team events.
You recently spent some time in the US training with Michael Phelps – how did you find his training regime compares to yours at Leeds?
Training with Michael was a breath of fresh air and I really enjoyed myself. He is a very talented swimmer that just gets into each training session and swims as fast as he can on everything. His meterage was maybe a bit higher than mine now, but the actual training wasn’t massively different to mine, being very endurance based. The main difference is that he trains predominantly short course yards, say 6-7 times a week and long course metres only 3-4 times.
I for one am amazed that someone so young can perform so well in an event as tough as 200 fly – what do you think is his secret?
His big strengths are his obvious natural talent and his size and shape, being slim and tall, but also his family, which has a very long history within swimming. His life is built around swimming and I think his parents have a good idea of what it takes to get to the top.
What about the facilities?
He trains in a complex that has two 50 m pools, indoor and out. Both have booms at 25 yards for their short course training.
What are your goals for the rest of the year – you must be looking forward to the European short course champs?
My goals for the next year are clearly based on the Commonwealth Games in Manchester. It’s my home town and friends and family will be able to watch me when usually they can’t travel to the destinations I competing in. I want to make those people that have supported me proud, so I’ll be giving 110% focus to it. There will be meets along the way and I want to swim well at them too, the sooner I start swimming at my best the more my confidence will grow before the games.
Do you agree with the selection policy which is skewed towards getting more youngsters into the team?
The selection policy for the Europeans was very rushed, I think our performance there should be judged on whether or not it is a good one. I think that selection policies for the future will be published well in advance of the meet so that they can be more considered.
Which is your favourite pool and why?
Sydney aquatic centre because of the atmosphere.
Do you enjoy racing or training best?
Do you have any particular race rituals?
Not really, just mental imagery.
In the pool how much time do you spend on technique?
Depending where we are in a cycle towards a meet this varies. As the work load comes down there is more time available to concentrate on technique.
Do you like to know what a training session is before you get in the water?
To be honest I’m not really bothered.
Do you ‘hate’ your coach sometimes?
Hate seems a bit strong, I dislike Terry (Denison) for the things he gets me to do sometimes.
Do you also laugh with your coach?
We laugh with and at Terry!
Finally, if you had one piece of advice for an up and coming fly swimmer what would it be?
My advice would be to aim to be able to train fly like freestyle. Build it up gradually, and then it will improve.